mRNA Decay in Stem Cells
In 2006 the Yamanaka group showed that fully differentiated adult cells could be artificially reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) capable of regenerating an entire organism (Takahashi et al, 2007; Figure). The medical applications of this technology are wide ranging but the mechanisms behind reprogramming are poorly understood.
Our lab is interested in characterizing how mRNA stability contributes to the vast differences in gene expression in these genetically identical cell types. In collaboration with Bin Tian's group at New Jersey Medical School we measured global mRNA decay rates in iPS cells and the fibroblasts they were derived from and identified three sets of transcripts that are differentially regulated: Histone mRNAs, Zinc Finger Protein mRNAs and mRNAs bearing C-rich elements (Neff et al, 2012). We believe the coordinated decay of these transcript families may be important for reprogramming and/or pluripotency and are now characterizing the mechanisms behind their differential regulation.